I first met Keavy a few years ago, right about the time she made the bold decision to switch careers so she could bake cupcakes for a living. She was friends with some of my co-workers and was bringing batches of freshly baked cupcakes to our office for feedback on her recipes. Since then her business Kumquat Cupcakery has taken off and she’s begun a new venture, Butter & Scotch, a baked goods and booze bar in Brooklyn.
Do you still practice? If so, what do your practice sessions look like?
I guess my practice would be when I get to play around in my own kitchen. To be honest this doesn’t happen often. I’m typically so exhausted by the time I get home from baking that all I want is a large glass of wine and a movie.
Where do you find inspiration?
Lots of my inspiration comes from what I ate and loved growing up. My mother used to make me this sheet cake that she would poke holes into and drench with caramel sauce before topping it with whipped cream and toffee bits. I find myself still wanting to do that to most of the cakes I bake!
Where are you when you have the most a-ha moments?
After I’ve stepped away from the product for a little while.
What do you do to maintain a creative flow?
Giving myself time in the kitchen to play. Most of my days at the moment are spent doing stuff I’ve made 1,000 times over and when you make something that many times you can forget that it’s even food. Forcing myself to be in the kitchen when we don’t have orders coming in is a great way for me to get back to that place where I can just play around and have fun.
How much do you rely on feedback from others to help shape your ideas?
So much! Having a business partner who basically shares my same palate is wonderful - we are constantly bouncing things back and forth when coming up with new recipes.
What is the greatest obstacle to creativity?
Having to work all the time. We are still so small that I’m basically in the kitchen producing 6 days a week. It’s exhausting!
When you complete a project, how often does it resemble your initial concept or conceived idea? How important is this for you?
Not often. I’m constantly updating and adding things to the recipe as I go along. I can become really obsessed when I have an idea in my head, so I will end up tweaking it (and not be able to think of anything else) for days until I think it’s perfect.
How do you know when you’re done?
When it taste fucking delicious.
How do you resolve creative differences with clients or creative partners?
Allison and I don’t often disagree with many things when it comes to matters of taste - but we do have some personal quirks: she hates fruit blended with cream, and I hate dry cake or anything bready touching ice cream. Somehow, so far, we’ve simply been able to avoid those two things completely! So I guess avoidance?
What keeps you motivated even if you don’t connect personally with the project?
I try to connect with every dessert that leaves our kitchen - whether it be for smorgasburg or someones wedding. People pay us because they like us and our desserts…..so that’s what we give them. There’s no compromising.
What do you do when you are stuck and have some sort of deadline or other pressure?
Get it done! make it work! All those things. With food you just gotta hussle.
How do you achieve your creative vision with a limited budget?
I don’t find that I get more or less creative when it comes to budget -- it’s more about what the person wants from me. If it’s something that I can immediately connect with it’s going to be way easier.
What are the top 3 tools in your creative tool kit? ie. software, pencil, paper, journal etc.
Sugar, butter, SALT.
What are the top 3 creative habits that have proven to be the most useful for you in your career?
Snacking on everything, having a huge sweet tooth, and always thinking about food.
If you could offer a single piece of advice to a budding professional, what would it be?
Make sure that you pick a product, or style of pastry, that is really all about YOU. People will be able to connect with your desserts much more if they are really honest and made with love (and lots of salt).
Learn more about Kumquat Cupcakery
Learn more about Butter & Scotch